SINGAPORE — In February, Minister of Manpower Dr Tan See Leng detailed the diverse celebratory initiatives to commemorate the 100th birthday of the late founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), in response to a seemingly planted parliamentary question from Member of Parliament Sitoh Yih Pin.
Among these are a travelling exhibition by the National Heritage Board, showcasing artefacts and stories from the nation-building years, and a comprehensive exhibition at the National Museum highlighting key historical milestones.
However, the centrepiece of these celebrations is the introduction of the commemorative coin as a token of LKY’s values and vision.
Just this Monday (15 May), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced the issuance of a special $10 coin which features an intricately designed portrait of LKY and Singapore’s skyline, symbolizing the city-state’s progression under his leadership.
Designed by local artist Mr Weng Ziyan, the coin, minted in aluminium bronze, pays tribute to Lee’s strategic vision and the indomitable spirit that propelled Singapore from a regional trading port to a global manufacturing, business, and financial hub.
The coin’s unveiling reignites discussions about the 2020 initiative by The Singapore Mint, a fully-owned subsidiary of Sembcorp Industries which is under Temasek Holdings, which had to suspend its medallion range titled “The Pride of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew.”
This happened hours after the initial launch, following guidelines issued by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in 2016, which stipulated that Lee’s name and likeness should not be used for commercial exploitation or any kind of official endorsement of products or services.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, while accepting in 2015 the possibility of coins bearing his late father’s image, but underscored that his father was against developing a personality cult.
PM Lee also highlighted that his father had clearly expressed that “he did not need and did not want any monument.”
The late LKY’s daughter, Dr Lee Wei Ling, echoed her brother’s sentiments in a 2016 Facebook post, expressing her father’s aversion to any form of hero worship and emphasized his dedication to advancing Singapore rather than focusing on his personal legacy.
With MAS’ introduction of the commemorative coin, it remains to be seen how Singaporeans and LKY’s family will respond to this form of remembrance, given the suspended plan by the Singapore Mint and the known standpoints of the late LKY and his children.
In the backdrop of these events, there is speculation that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) may utilize the 100th birthday celebration of the late LKY to bolster support in potential early elections, echoing the swell of support PAP received in the 2015 election following the passing of the Singaporeans’ beloved politician.